..................... in the Pistons (Pistons fans). This is mainly addressed to Pistons fans because in all honestly, I could careless what the rest of the league thinks. In fact, the Pistons have shown in the past they do better when they are the underdog and don't have a lot of people supporting them. So I doubt I will change any minds of other fans that have completely given up on the Pistons (and I don't intend to), but I just want to make sure my fellow Detroit fans keep the faith and don't lose hope.
The first thing to remember is we haven't even made it to the All Star break yet. The Pistons always play better in the 2nd half of the year, and in their most successful seasons (i.e. the 2004 championship season) they catch fire shortly after the All Star break and carry that into the playoffs. The Pistons can still get things together and star clicking after they have time to figure things out during the break. It's not like the Pistons are a below .500 team struggling for a playoff spot. They will make the playoffs, but the only thing that is questionable is what seed they will get. It doesn't matter if the Cavaliers do win the division because back 2004, the Pacers finished ahead of the Pistons to win the division, yet Detroit still went on to win the championship.
The next thing to consider is look closely and compare this year to the 2004 championship season. They go out and make a trade for a superstar player, they start out slow and everyone doubts them (and continues to do so all the way until they win the championship), a little while after the All Star break they catch fire and finish the season strong, and they carry their success all the way through the playoffs and win the championship against a team no one thought could be beat. Ever since then things have changed; everyone started supporting the Pistons and putting them amongst the contenders every year. The only problem was they couldn't seem to get past the ECFs (other than the following year in 2005). This was because they had gotten overconfident and didn't have that same "hunger" factor as they did in 2004.
This year, they made the trade for Allen Iverson , and while they might be doing better right now with Chauncey Billups , they would still fall short with him again in the playoffs. Billups is still one of the best PGs in the game (IMO 2nd behind Chris Paul ) and he contributed just as much (or more) as everyone else to our success and in helping us win the championship (he deserved that Finals MVP). But he, along with the rest of the team, and had gotten arrogant, cocky, and overly confident and felt that they had enough talent and skill that they could take games off and relax and only play when they needed to. He had lost his hunger to win another championship, and that in turn rubbed off on the entire team. I'm not saying it was his fault entirely, because Rasheed Wallace and the rest of the team had a lot to do with as well (also losing Larry Brown didn't help any either).
AI is one of the league's oldest veterans and an all time great player. His years are numbered now and he doesn't have much time left. He has had so much individual success and accomplishments throughout his career, but has yet to win the ultimate prize: a title. You can say he isn't a team player and is a cancer, but he wants to win just as bad as anyone. He hasn't been on any great teams (Carmelo Anthony is not a complimenting player for him) and every team he has joined has gotten better with him. He wants to win a championship, and has that "hunger" factor in him. He has shown that he is willing to sacrifice his high stats in order for the team to play better. I'm sure if Curry had the guts to bench him and make him their 6th man (but still get big minutes like the Spurs would do with Manu Ginobili ) he would have accepted his role if it would help the team have more success. He is still one of the league's best scorers, he can pass very well, and has been making an effort on defense (though his size will always work against him).
Curry is only in his first year as head coach (not just with the Pistons, but first head coach job in his career; he's a rookie), and he still has lots to learn. However, I can tell just by listening to his comments and post game reports that he is trying his best to make the team have more success. Now we can't expect him to be the next Red Auerbach in his first year of head coaching, so it's not like he's going to make all the right moves right off the bat. I have faith that during the break, he'll be able to sit back and evaluate things and make better decisions on what to do. He will realize that he needs to get the team to focus more on defense and playing the whole through. He needs to find the right rotation that works, and use it for the rest of the season. He needs to start running more plays for Stuckey and let him get to the hoop like we know he can do so well. He even needs to consider benching AI instead of Richard Hamilton (because Rip works better with the starters and AI would be huge off the bench).
The one thing that needs to be done, that I'm not so sure is possible, is to get Rasheed to stop jacking up so many 3 point shots. No Pistons coach has been able to do this since Larry Brown, and it has been a major problem for Detroit. He is a great post player, and without him the Pistons don't have any inside presence on offense. Sure AI, Stuckey, and Prince can get to the rim but they don't have any post player who can score inside without Sheed. That's why teams can just sit back and pack the paint preventing the drives and turning us into a jump shooting team (which we are not). When he's hot he's unstoppable, but when he's cold he's terrible. Curry needs to man up and realize he runs this team, and not the players. He needs to stand up to Sheed and tell him to get back down in the paint where he belongs. I have no problem with him shooting about 5 shots per game from outside (maybe a little more if he's shooting well that game) because it helps stretch the defense, but shooting 10+ and leading the league in 3pt attempts is not something we want from Sheed. I don't know if Curry will have the courage to step up to him and do this, but this is the ONLY thing that I'm not confident Curry will be able to do after the All Star break.
We also can't forget that even if we don't win it all this year we have an even better future ahead of us. Rodney Stuckey is only in his 2nd year and is already starting to become a very good point guard capable of running the point for us. He is only going to get better, and the best is yet to come from him. He has shown a lot of improvement on defense this year (a concern last year), and now I'm completely sold on him being our next floor general who can lead us to a championship. Jason Maxiell , Arron Afflalo , Amir Johnson , and Tayshaun Prince all have lots of years left in them and will become keys to our success. Also, if Sheed retires and/or leaves the Pistons at the end of this year, and AI is not able to get us a championship and decides to either call it quits or go to a new in 2010, we will have tons of money to use in that star studded FA class in the summer of 2010.
So don't lose hope Pistons fans because there is light at the end of this dark tunnel we are in right now. It may be hard to see right now, but keep the faith. Don't worry about what all the haters say, because we don't need the support of the rest of the league. All that matters is what we know about our team, and that we keep our faith in them. We still have a shot at the championship this year (whether anyone realizes it or not), and we definitely have a very good future ahead of us with Stuckey and the 2010 FA class. Remember the 2004 championship season. So say it with me my Pistons brothers: